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Taking a great leap forward

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: September 13, 2012

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IT would be easy to imagine many potential compact coupe customers not even trying this car, seduced as they might be by the fun of a MINI Coupe, the quality of a Volkswagen Scirocco or the style of a Peugeot RCZ. And that would be a mistake.

Unlike its direct predecessors, this is much, much more than just a three-door Astra Hatch in a dress.

In fact, it's arguably the best handling car in its class, certainly the most practical choice and probably the most affordable too when you take dealer offers into account.

None of which would count for very much in this market if this car didn't also look great. But it does.

You could be excused for approaching a drive in this GTC model with rather low expectations.

After all, it succeeds a couple of Astra coupe models that were no more exciting to drive than the frumpy five-door hatchbacks they were based upon.

And a quick glance at the badgework and under the bonnet might suggest that we're again looking at something similar here. You might think that. Your friends might think that. But you'd both be wrong.

It's true that apart from the potent 2.0-litre petrol turbo used in the flagship VXR version, GTC engineware is identical to that you'll find in any ordinary Astra.

But that's only because engineering effort and investment has been directed into areas far more important to driving satisfaction.

Sharper steering, a wider track and, most importantly, a completely different suspension set-up all combine to make this the most engaging driver's car Vauxhall makes.

Only a £30,000 Insignia VXR gets its power down and turns into corners as sharply – and that's only because it shares this car's clever HiPerStrut suspension system.

It would be easy to imagine many potential compact coupe customers not even trying this car, seduced as they might be by the fun of a MINI Coupe, the quality of a Volkswagen Scirocco or the style of a Peugeot RCZ. And that would be a mistake.

Unlike its direct predecessors, this is much, much more than just a three-door Astra Hatch in a dress.

In fact, it's arguably the best handling car in its class, certainly the most practical choice and probably the most affordable too when you take dealer offers into account. None of which would count for very much in this market if this car didn't also look great. But it does.

It's true that the interior could be more exciting and that some of the lower-order engines are unremarkable. But then, that's also true of a number of obvious rivals.

Ultimately, if you can get over the issue of buying into an Astra when maybe you'd started your search in this segment with an eye on something with an apparently more desirable badge, then this GTC is unlikely to disappoint.

A performance car for the everyday. And a big step forward for Vauxhall.

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